It used to be that merchants only needed to worry about having the most alluring, well-priced merchandise to snag customers. Thanks to instant ordering, a convenient shopping experience now tops the list of shopper must-haves.
This is especially the case during the busy shopping season.
“Consumers want to accomplish more in their days while reducing the time commitment for each task. Shopping is the ideal place to make those adjustments," says Stephanie Barrueto, vice-president of marketing at Swych, a mobile app that digitizes gift cards and allows users to switch to a preferred card.
“Consumers want more time and convenience in their day; it's a universal need, especially during the chaotic holiday shopping season. It's all about offering customers a frictionless shopping experience," says Chelsie Lee, CEO and co-founder of Shipsi, a technology company that leverages last-mile networks to give retailers the ability to add an "instant shipping" option to their checkout process.
According to Lee, it's a good idea for every merchant to be concerned about creating a convenient shopping experience for customers.
“A convenience-first mentality could literally make or break a business," she says. “In 2018, consumers have more shopping options than ever, but if the customer experience to make a purchase doesn't fit into their lifestyle, they're not doing business with you."
Creating a Convenient Shopping Experience
While a convenient shopping experience is always appreciated, quick and easy ways to fulfill the gift list become a necessity during the rush of the holiday season.
Here are some ideas for offering a convenient shopping experience to your customers this holiday season and beyond.
Options to create frictionless checkout and a convenient shopping experience include integrating with mobile wallets, so consumers can easily and securely authorize a payment without rooting around for their cards and filling out scores of dialogue boxes.
—Jason Oxman, CEO, Electronic Transactions Association
1. Multiple Payment Options
Offering customers the ability to pay as they prefer is an important part of providing a convenient shopping experience, believes Jason Oxman, CEO of Electronic Transactions Association, a trade association for the payments industry.
“The best-positioned merchants no longer just focus on accepting cash, coins and cards at a cash register," says Oxman. “Provide your customers convenience when it comes to making the purchase by giving them as many channels and opportunities to engage with a merchant as possible so you can make the sale."
Some major retailers are already offering a wide variety of options when it comes to paying, including in-store contactless payment.
“At [some merchants], for instance, you don't have to wait in line. You can check out via mobile anywhere in the store," says Oxman.
“The AmazonGo store concept takes the convenient shopping experience to its logical conclusion," Oxman continues. “Shoppers can simply walk in using an app, grab an item off the shelf and walk out without ever pulling out their wallets. This provides consumers a simple, fast and secure way to pay when their hands are full with holiday merchandise."
2. Frictionless Online Buying Experience
Convenient ways to pay online in e-commerce stores are equally as important, as abandoned carts are one of the biggest challenges facing online retailers.
“An easy check-out process could mean the difference between a successful sale and an abandoned cart," says Oxman.
“Options to create frictionless checkout and a convenient shopping experience include integrating with mobile wallets, so consumers can easily and securely authorize a payment without rooting around for their cards and filling out scores of dialogue boxes," he says. "Many companies that power e-commerce payments offer these types of solutions."
Another drawback of online shopping that some merchants are now addressing is the inability to touch and try items before buying.
“[Many] merchants...provide customers with the opportunity to try at home before you buy," says Ankush Sehgal, co-founder and CEO of Try.com, an online shopping platform that enables customers to try before they buy from online stores.
“Being able to see and touch online merchandise before buying reduces checkout anxiety and bridges the gap between the online and in-store shopping experience," says Sehgal. “You wouldn't pay to try clothes in a store, so why should you have to online? Offering try before buying helps win customers over and increase sales."
3. Easy Return Policy
Another area where you can ensure your customers a convenient shopping experience is with your return policy.
“The days of email-only customer support and hiding return fees in the small print are long gone. The bar for customer experience is high, and it's only rising," says Sehgal.
4. Seamless Delivery Experience
The advent of free next-day or even same-day shipping has created impatient shoppers interested in immediate gratification. That expectation is heightened during the holiday season.
“When it comes to holiday shopping and gift giving, there's an added layer of emotion," says Lee. “We all remember what it's like to think of the perfect gift, but it's too late to purchase—or when you want to give a gift but just don't have enough time in your day to make it happen."
5. Bridging Online Sales With Brick and Mortar
Those merchants with online and physical stores have multiple opportunities to offer customers convenience using both channels, according to Jordan Marks, head of retail at Amour Vert, a sustainable fashion retailer with an online store and brick-and-mortar locations.
"Amour Vert offers perks such as free in-store returns for items ordered online, so the customer doesn't have to deal with shipping," says Marks. "In addition, we provide free, fast shipping on anything that's not in stock in the store, so the customer doesn't feel a lag time between when she falls in love with an item and gets it in hand."
There are a variety of options for creating a seamless, convenient shopping experience between online and in-store.
"When there are physical stores, orders can often be delivered faster and cheaper or be picked up locally," says Bill Friend, managing director and vice president of North America at Fluent Commerce, a native cloud order management solution offering omnichannel services.
"Brick-and-mortar merchants can also create reserved parking spots for customers picking up orders or provide curbside service," he says.
Whenever possible, Friend advises offering same-day delivery or pick-up.
"When customers are online, provide the location of the items they wish to purchase, which is likely to prompt the person to buy and pickup in the store."
Read more articles on customer engagement.
Photo: Getty Images